Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day 46 October 1, 2009 Yellowstone! Madison Campground

Day 46 October 1st, 2009
Nine o'clock this morning brought a new experience on ECOEE, waking up to snow. After finding our campsite in Yellowstone's Madison Campground late last night, snowflakes falling all around, we exited our tents this morning in the frigid air to find the ground powdered white. One glance up showed the full splendor of our surroundings that, once hidden by the cover of night and shrouded in clouds, now broke through in this crisp mountain morning. Peeking through the gaps in the pine trees that stood tall all around, snow dusted peaks towered over all else, blue skies as a backdrop, a sight to start any day off right.
After a heart, but not necessarily healthy breakfast of oatmeal and, of all things, peanut M&M's, which shockingly tasted fantastic!, we loaded into the vans for the drive to Hebgen Lake, the site of a 7.5 earthquake in 1959. FOD Ron planned to have us stop at the interpretive center, but we arrived to find it was closed. Instead we spent 15 minutes exploring the banks of the Madison River, scouting the rapids out of habit, and viewing the remains of the rock slide caused by the earthquake left scarring the side of the mountain. Cassi gave us the story of what happened, explaining how the disintegration of the mountainside crushed the campsite below it, leaving 28 people dead. The mammoth boulders serve as an eerie reminder of the ugly side of Mother Nature; the side that leaves carnage and destruction in its unpredictable wake.
Cold, hungry, and wary, we moved to Big Beaver campsite, where we ate lunch before our meeting with the Forest Service at 3. Todd Stiles, a recreation manager with the Forest Service was more than happy to answer our many questions, both about the service and himself. We learned that the best way to describe the difference between the National Parks and the Forest Service is that “Forests are open to the public unless specifically closed, while the Parks are closed unless specifically opened.” Todd even eased some worries about where forest rangers go on vacation. Thanks to him, Matt's head may not explode.
After a meal of monstrous goulash, I sit by myself looking out over the valley where the Gibbon and Firehole Rivers converge to make the Madison River. The moon glides through patches in the clouds, illumination the mountains and rivers one moment, then stealing away again the next. This is my classroom.

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